Forget the Reviews, Go See ‘Jupiter Ascending’

jupiter-ascending-screen-grab

I’m unaccustomed to recommending movies I find bad or, in this case, mediocre. I suppose you could say this is the equivalent of knowingly cooking bland food for house guests, so this is a bit of a new experience for me. So here it goes: I need all of you to take your hard-earned money and go see Jupiter Ascending.

Yes, the movie has a 22% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Yes, the script is filled with more clichés and bad dialogue than any Keanu Reeves movie is capable of. And yes, this movie isn’t exactly what we’d call the reemergence of Star Wars. Regardless, go to the theatre. Pay money. Get a ticket. Buy a delicious blue-raspberry Icee. Why? Because this movie had a giant budget and is an original property. You know what that means? It means it’s not a sequel, reboot, remake or based on any novel or comic book.

Jupiter Ascending

You see, Hollywood has increasingly become adverse to funding original properties with big budgets. Typically you’ll see maybe one a year if you’re lucky. And who can blame them? Last summer I asked, nay, I begged people to go see Edge of Tomorrow, because it was incredible and yet practically no one saw it in theaters. Before that it was Pacific Rim, which seemed to interest no one (What about giant robots punching giant monsters do people not understand?). Now granted, one of these two is based on a preexisting property, albeit a relatively unknown one. But you can see why producers are wary to risk giving a film big funding if movie-goers won’t go see the ones they do give big budgets to.

Last year I can think of one movie, Interstellar, that fit in the category of a new property that made a lot of money, and I suspect the only reason it got the budget it did was the name recognition of Christopher Nolan.

This brings us back to my original plea: go see Jupiter Ascending. I know you’ve complained, either secretly or out loud, that there seem to be way to many comic book movies out there, or that both Batman and Spider-Man are being rebooted way too soon, or that all we seem to get these days are mediocre sequels and adaptations of terrible books (Can we all pretend 50 Shades of Grey isn’t actually happening?). Well guess what, the universe has seen fit to give us all another chance to show Hollywood that we are ready to reward their financial risks.

rocket boots

 

Having said all that, let me allay some of your fears about going to see what you could presume to be a humongous pile of crap, because there were some genuinely cool things in this movie. For starters, Jupiter Ascending does some phenomenal world building with dozens of unique alien species, colorful planets and a rich history only briefly hinted at. Action sequences are intense, especially a dog fight over downtown Chicago, and will keep you entertained. You’ll love to see Eddie Redmayne play an incredibly weird and creepy villain who likes to speak through his teeth. And, oh yeah, crazy hover skates. Seriously, I hope those things will be invented by the time the hover skateboard from Back to the Future Part II makes it to the market.

I pray this has been enough to convince you, because I’m telling you true that if this movie makes the big bucks you can expect that another original film will be released in the near future and it will have the budget it deserves and will hopefully be much higher quality.

Forget the Reviews, Go See ‘Jupiter Ascending’

Michael Bay + Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles = ruined childhood

TMNT_1

The first trailer for producer Michael Bay’s adaptation of “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was just released – and the angels in heaven wept. OK, maybe it was just me crying (on the inside of course), but my emotional state after watching this trailer was nothing short of broken inside.

Like the Transformers, TMNT make up a big part of my childhood. Action figures? Check. Video games? You bet. Pajamas? Like a boss. To sum it up nicely, I have more invested in something like this than any book-to-movie adaptation.

And while trailers can often be deceiving of what the final product will look like, they can easily leave a bad first impression as was the case today.

The re-imagined look

After a short trailer narration by actor William Fichtner about how their “great city is being destroyed” by crime, and how heroes “are not born – they’re created,” we’re treated to relatively short glimpses of the turtles themselves.

They’re noticeably taller than previous incarnations and much more “mutant” if that even makes sense. They look pretty similar to the image posted above. For those familiar with the 1980’s cartoon and the original live-action movies, it’s certainly a new look for the turtles. I suppose Bay was hoping to make the heroes in a half shell look “bad ass” for a modern audience, but he forgot the main ingredient that made such ridiculous characters popular in the first place: charm.

Say what you will about the original cartoon and movies,  there was just something charming about the original look that doesn’t seem to transition well in this new film. Perhaps this had to do in part because the original turtles struck a pretty good balance between a turtle and a humanoid, whereas this new re-imagining (grasping for realism?) tries to imagine what a real mutant turtle would look like.

TMNT_2
The original look from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.”

We only get a good look at two of the turtles (Leonardo and Michelangelo respectively) in this trailer, but I can’t imagine Donatello and Raphael looking much different.

Granted, my irrational bias is probably changing my opinion of the new look and it could grow on me, but this doesn’t affect my real concern.

The re-imagined feel

Bay is usually an easy target for critics and the public alike when it comes to making fun of a director/producer. After all, he is the king of large explosions, occasional racist clichés and the absurd over-sexualization of women (I suspect this man is overcompensating for something).

However, I’ll freely admit that I enjoy “Armageddon” as well as the first “Transformers” with all of their absurdities. I don’t think they’re great movies by any means, but I love them anyway.

Unfortunately, the heart of TMNT doesn’t involves large explosions, racist jokes or excessive cleavage from Megan Fox ($100 says he includes all three in this movie); rather it’s turtles eating pizza, fighting ninjas with a vigilante whose weapon of choice is a hockey stick, speaking surfer lingo (Cowabunga dudes!) and showing off some half decent martial arts.

Instead I’m watching turtles ski down a mountain and pulverizing military Humvees with their shells and fighting Seal Team Six instead of ninjas. Is it any wonder then that this re-imagining of the characters and story would upset me so?

What made the successful concoction work in the past is the simple fact that TMNT knew exactly what it was and therefore never took itself too seriously, something Bay and director Jonathan Liebesmen seem to have ignored.

As always, I could be horribly wrong about the final version of the movie. The trailer only lasted a minute and half, so we didn’t see a whole lot. I suppose we’ll revisit the subject later this summer after I inevitably see it in theaters. In the meantime, please enjoy with me Vanilla Ice’s hit single “Ninja Rap” from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.”

Michael Bay + Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles = ruined childhood